Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Germany, the most distinctive major wine producer in Europe with both wines and problems quite unlike those of anywhere else. Grape growing in Germany is a small but culturally conspicuous part of the whole country’s farming industry. Germany’s annual wine production of between 7 and 10 million hl from about 100,000 ha/247,000 acres has made her Europe’s fourth biggest wine producer for many years. Unlike France and Italy, however, Germany makes about as much wine as she consumes, while also being the largest importer of wine in the EU. Most unfortunately, undistinguished bulk wines have since the 1970s routinely been allowed to benefit from both the german wine law and the reputations of top-flight vineyards, thus threatening to debase both. And the majority of German wine is still sold in bulk, often on price rather than quality. These unfortunate factors notwithstanding, the profile of German wine—in particular that of Riesling—has risen significantly in prestige at home and abroad since the late 20th century. What’s more, while nearly all of Germany’s growing regions can still be considered cool-climate and capable of producing wines with incomparable finesse, the struggle to ripen grapes sufficiently that dominated viticulture and choice of sites here for centuries has eased dramatically thanks to climate change as well as viticultural and attitudinal changes.